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Home  /  Podcast   /  Other-Centered Training with Tom Kiernan – Episode #17

Evan speaks with Tom Kiernan, Senior Consultant at Aslan Training and Development about the importance of organizations being “Other-Centered.” There are several steps that organizations can take to achieve this, which Tom discusses in detail. Tom is the author of the book “The Mad Dash – Bite My Dust.” To request a demonstration of his software discussed on the show visit You can find Tom at – View Infographic





Announcer: Welcome to “Training Unleashed,” the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now, here’s your host Evan Hackle.

Evan: Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Training Unleashed.” I am your host Evan Hackle, with me is Tom Kiernan and he’s with ASLAN Training & Development. Tom, it’s terrific having you here, welcome to the show.

Tom: No, thank you for having me Evan, I really appreciate it. Just because I’ll forget and I read your book, “Engaging Leadership,” I loved it and so I just want to make sure I got that in there. So, it’s a great pleasure to be here, thank you.

Evan: Well, that’s so nice of you to do that, thank you, thank you. I’m very proud of the book and I know that you have actually written a book although not necessarily on training. So, won’t you do this…just start off just quickly, tell us a little bit about yourself and your company. After you do that, just a few seconds on your book because it’s kind of an interesting topic.

Tom: Sure, I’d love to. You know, today I work with ASLAN Training & Development and we’re based out of Atlanta, Georgia, global organization. We are a selling power top 20 company, five years running. We have customers from Fortune 500 to small, to mid-sized businesses bridge the gap in both sales and customer service execution. So ASLAN has been around for over 20 years. I also uniquely have been with them for two years, a little over two years now. But I’ve had a long-standing relationship in that I’ve had a relationship with them with respect to…My relationship with them is in background and sales, particularly with Schneider Electric and APC and hired them back about 15 years ago. So, I have a long-standing relationship with them.

Evan: I think, by the way, it’s really cool that you were a client and then went to work for them. Now at Tortal Training, we have a strict policy of not hiring any of our customer’s employees. I assume that was you had to have a nice chat, you had to have a good conversation. Is that what happened?

Tom: Yeah. They have…it’s, you know, it’s something that we had talked about for quite some time. And, you know, they’ve been, you know, they’ve been very fortunate to have a great relationship with the two founders of the company. And so it was just an easy transition and it was the right time for me at that point in my career and no conflicts at all.

Evan: That’s cool. So, tell us just quickly about the book.

Tom: Oh yeah. “The Mad Dash – Bite My Dust.” It’s a middle grade book to give you a little insight into my mentality. Middle grade is fourth to seventh grade and it’s about two boys who are best of pals and one of them finds out he gets cancer. So, they go on a very fun and wild adventure to find the cure. There’s a little bit of time travel mixed in so it’s a fun book. I’ve written the first one, so it’s available on the Amazon, to do my own plug here.

Evan: Well, if you…

Tom: And I’m writing the second one now.

Evan: Cool. If you give me the link with all the stuff you’re supposed to give me and the description, we will put a link in there for you on your book.

Tom: Yeah, not so much geared to your audience but certainly probably the children of the folks in your audience for sure.

Evan: All right. Cancer strikes everyone whether it’s, you know, a child in the family or a child, another family or whatever. So, I think it’s terrific that you wrote such a book and those types of books are really needed.

Tom: Thank you Evan.

Evan: Back to training.

Tom: Back to training.

Evan: Back to training, that’s why everyone’s here. I know that your methodology is very different and, you know, I know you which is why I can actually ask you this very specific question. Why don’t you explain to people how your company thinks about how they work with their clients and, you know, the key differentiator and your methodology?

Tom: You know, I think the first part of, you know, before we talk about, you know, how we differentiate, I think it’s important to talk about what’s happening in the training world today. And I think for a lot of the people, you know, in your audience Evan, they’ll agree that information…their customers, you know, whether it’s your external customer or a customer that you serve inside your organization as a training organization, they have so much information. They’re armed with so much information and for us, for ASLAN, when we’re dealing with our customers, it’s about helping our customers and their sales people to recognize the fact that their role as this person who…this person who’s used to kind of giving that information around products and, you know, around that basic information, now the customers come to us and they’re armed with all that information.

So, it’s getting harder to get a seat at the table to be a trusted adviser for our customers. So, that’s one big problem. The other thing is access, is actually getting access to people out there particularly our customers and their salespeople. They have a tough time really getting access and it’s about that, you know, getting…it’s about being at the seating of the table and it’s about the receptivity of that customer. So, a good sense of the answer to your question Evan which is we focus on really two things and one is we say it’s important to focus on the receptivity of that customer. So, when we’re talking to that customer, are they receptive to us to be at that table with them and, you know, it’s getting harder and harder for us…for our customers to get that seat. And we ask them to really to key in on receptivity. So, we kind of do it as an analogy of there’s the soil and the seeds. Do you have a garden Evan?

Evan: I have a flower garden.

Tom: So okay, a flower garden, great. So you have…you gonna go out to the store. So, your wife wants to plant some different types of flowers this year, you have to sort of…you want to get that very best seed and that’s what salespeople do today is they try to get that very even marketing. It’s getting that very perfect pitch that, you know, that value crop to plant into that soil which is the soil which is the customer’s mind. And a lot of times what we don’t realize is that the soil is no good. In other words, the customer is not receptive to having that conversation and that’s what we really focus on. And we believe that the key to that…the key to focus on receptivity is to be other-centered. And everything that endears itself around our mindset, our attitude, we say to our customers, “If, you know, if you really wanna change, you’ve gotta change your mind set. You’ve gotta change your attitude to become an other-centered organization.”

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Evan: I love that term other-centered and that was really what I was getting at. You wanna go a little deeper on what that means and what are the characteristics of somebody that is other-centered?

Tom: Yeah, you know, when you think about other-centered, you know, if you wake up in the morning, you know, so when you wake up in the morning Evan, you say to yourself, “Boy, what can I do for my wife today? This morning how can I make her some breakfast?” You know, maybe that’s…maybe Evan Hackle does that but for the most part it’s not normal for us, right? It’s not normal for us to decide to be other-centered. You know, to make a conscious decision to serve others. We just…we normally just default to ourselves but when you decide to serve others, we say your motive is ultimately transparent and therefore the receptivity of your customer will increase. So if your motive…if you make the decision, that’s the first part of being other-centered is making the decision. You say, “Well, that’s easy” but it’s not, right?

It goes against…and the second characteristic around being other-centered is choosing whom to serve. And I love this, you know in, you know, in your book it’s…in “Engaging Leadership,” it’s so much about that mindset. And I think it really ties to being other-centered, that mindset of attitude. And can we serve everybody and what happens if we serve everybody? We end up serving nobody, right? And so whether we’re coaching people or whether we’ve got a funnel as, you know, as sales people have a big funnel and they try to spread themselves out to everybody, it doesn’t work. So, you ensure your highest return, focus on your most precious resource which is time and that’s very important. You can’t serve…you cannot serve everybody particularly if you’re managing a team, right? You think about…if you think about a team, they’re you know, you have productivity and you have desire, right?

Coach Belichick says, “You can’t teach desire.” We just turned off half of our audience right there didn’t we by saying…but he says,” You can’t teach desire,” right? So it’s about choosing those that have desire that want to be productive and that’s the people that you focus on to develop, and to work on their competency and to make them better, to make them more productive. The third part of being other-centered is serving more and here’s a fact Evan, people who serve more are happier and healthier. The people that…it’s a fact, you can Google it, you can go out there, you can look at it. There’s no, I mean, it’s in medical journals, right? It’s in medical journals. So we say to the other-centered is to care more, to learn more, to do more whether it’s about your team or your organization. For us it’s really teaching salespeople and management to do that for their customers. And the last one, again, I think ties back to engaging leadership which is seeking the truth about yourself, right? Everybody’s got that sign on their forehead, everybody can see it but you can’t, right? And I love the new book when you talked about 360 and, you know, all the feedback came in and yet when you were really looking at yourself, you were able to figure out that a lot of that feedback wasn’t even, you know, wasn’t really…wasn’t even, you know, it wasn’t…I wouldn’t say it wasn’t accurate but, you know, it didn’t really get down deep to where you needed to dig, right? So seeking the truth about yourself is not only asking others, but digging within and that’s probably…and that’s the fourth and I think one of the most hard…I think the hard…one of the hardest parts of being other-centered.

Evan: You know, now that I think about it I should probably ask all my guests to read my book beforehand so I can get all these nice plugs. But I wanna take what you said and relate it in a different way to the audience. So my book is “Ingage” with an I and I for involvement.

Tom: Yes, it is.

Evan: You know, a big part in my opinion that’s lost on training organizations is to understand who your customers are. So, their customers are the people that they’re training and their customers are management and that a lot of times they see themselves as, “This is what we do, people tell us what they need, we go out and we do it.” But if you’re not focused on the other, if you aren’t getting the buyer and you aren’t getting the support, if you’re not leaning into what their needs are, you know, just like the things you’re teaching the salespeople to do or the customer service people to do as your clients to help them be more effective. People in training need to understand the same thing, that the learner needs to understand why and what’s in it for them for taking and participating in the learning and management needs to understand, you know, why and what’s in it for them, and when you’re proposing new ideas and innovation in training, to understand that. And I think that this, you know, I’m talking about training because this is “Training Unleashed,” right, but it’s true in any position if you’re in marketing, if you’re in accounting in your…you have a role, a [inaudible 00:15:08] so to speak in the company, you take yourself and you don’t think of yourself as others, as customers. In fact, sometimes you feel like you’re doing them a favor and that’s the wrong attitude.

It’s everything you just said is the way if you’re running a training department, you need to think including adding your own people in your own department. And, you know, I know that, you know, most of your career you actually run corporate training departments and been very successful at it. So, maybe it’s a little off but maybe is there any advice you could share to people that are in corporate training departments how to get internal buy in?

Tom: Yeah, gosh. You know, we teach it as in to get a seat at the table is to be the trusted adviser, right? It’s someone who has ownership, right? An ownership in what they’re doing for their customers. So, you know, same thing for training organizations in my experience in running global training organizations for, you know, big companies like Schneider Electric and American Power Conversion. The second piece of being a trusted adviser is challenging, right? It’s…that was one of the hardest things that we would…I think it’s one of the hardest things for training organizations to do is to challenge their…that internal customer, right? Challenge the people that they’re serving, you know, “Let’s throw training at this.” And how to…and how to go about, you know, challenging them to say, “What is the right thing to do here?” A lot of times it’s the answers, “Okay, let’s just train it.” Then they train it and there is an event and then everybody runs off and there’s no investment behind it, right? And so it’s a challenge to say, “Okay, if you’re gonna do this we need to…here’s what we need to do. Here’s the reinforcement that we need to put into place and here’s the time it’s going to take.” You know, by the way, if you say…you [inaudible 00:17:26] on something else is what training department says, it happens all the time. And you say, “We need you to do this on top of that.” And you say, “Okay, that’s fine but that means we’re not gonna be able to do X, Y, and Z, right?” And that’s the third part about being a trusted adviser is you have to be an advocate, right? And you have to challenge, you have to be an advocate. So I said, “Get a seat at the table,” hard thing to do. That was, you know, one of the most challenging things in my career, you know, running global training organizations was getting that seat at the table. I had the most success when I acted like that trusted adviser to my customers.

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Evan: I had a client who I will not name but they had…we’ll just say a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 restaurants. It’s a franchise customer and I was doing an analysis for them and we looked at their learning management system. And we compared an 80% completion rate of training versus a 50% completion rate of training. The system average was 50 but what was the difference between the people that got 80% of the staff to complete the training versus 50? And the answer was 4% additional growth compared to meet…compared to the people at 50. Now, when you sit back and you think about these multimillion dollar restaurants, a 4% growth improvement and then compound it, is huge, right?

Tom: Yeah, a lot of money.

Evan: Right. So, I go to the head of the training department and I said, “You know, you need to share this with management, you know, to let them see the importance of what you’re doing and the value that you’re bringing to the company.” And this persons response was, “No, no, no, no, the marketing person will take credit. No, no, no, the operations team will take credit.” And I go, “But it’s the same…this is not a selected group. The only difference between them is not”…and they’ll say, “No, no, no, they’re the better franchisees, they’re doing all this other stuff.” And I think a lot of times in training that people…the people in training, take a second fiddle that they aren’t the trusted adviser. They’re not at the senior management meetings. The marketing people at the senior management meeting, the training people are not. When I was in business I, you know, I was running a five billion dollar business that was part of a 10 billion dollar company. The person in charge of training was always at senior management meetings, always at the senior management meetings because training was a key fundamental part of the company. So, anyhow, we’re diverging in a little bit of a rant on my part because I…you know, this whole thing is about the importance of training and that people don’t recognize it. “Unleashed Training” makes a difference which leads me to my next question, how do you, when you work with clients, help them understand the impact that you’re having on the business? And I know your answer a little bit, I think it’s a great way to look at things. So I think it’s important, you know, how do they know that you’ve been a success?

Tom: Well, I think, you know, one of the…our customers come to us with, you know, a business challenge. And it’s usually tied to…it is tied to, you know, sales, customer service process which is, you know, many times linked to the competency of the people and that execution of the process. So we are, you know, one of the things we do when we assess Evan is, you know, we get highly entrenched at ASLAN. And I’ll explain that as, you know, we said at the highest level of the organization, at the C level of the organization. And we talk about the objective, the business objective of what do they want to accomplish and even more importantly is why do they want to do it? Why are they doing it? Because in order to establish…when you establish that why you’re getting that, ultimately you’re getting that emotional connection. And when I say entrenched, highly entrenched, another key part of our assessment is going in and literally sitting at, you know, right in the trenches of organizations listening to phone calls, travelling on the road with sales people, technical sales, sitting in call centers, you know, inside sales teams. You know, we get ourselves entrenched into the organization to really listen to and try to bridge that gap between that high…here is what we want to do and why we wanna do it and, you know, what’s happening out there. And so getting into that link, to that competency of these people and driving that competency of the people, it’s about benchmarking, right? It’s about sitting and benchmarking. You have the right tools to benchmark right down to the individual and teams, you know, where are we? And then being able to watch that needle move as we drive that process. As we train, as we reinforce, as we bring in the coaching and we say, “You know, if you’re not gonna go in and you’re not gonna engage in the process of being trained and then jumping into the reinforcement of it and the coaching of it and trying to create this coaching culture, you’re not going to be successful,” right? Because there’s no way you’re gonna be able to engage that competency in how we’re doing and how that competency is impacting that business, that objective that is set, you know, in that, “that boardroom.”

So I think, you know, we have tools and we have proprietary software that we use that, you know, we give to our clients to be able to measure how that needle moves. And it goes right down to the individual in the organization and we can have…we can create executive conversations, right, that trusted adviser conversations for training organizations to have at this senior most executive level of sales and marketing, you know, customer service, and really talk about the impact of that competency as that needle moves. It goes slower, right? It goes slow and that’s why it’s really in that beginning processes, we wanna make sure they bought in to making that investment in time.

Evan: You know, what I love about what you’re talking about is that most people run to a measurement of sales. What percentage will you increase sales? The problem is there are so many variables that impacts sales, right? So the training department could execute really well, improve competency, improve all of these things and sales could go down because the product hasn’t kept up with competition, right, or marketing budgets have been cut. Conversely, sales can go up and someone can say, “Well, that has nothing to do with training, that has to do with new parking innovation or just the marketing.” But what you’re doing is you’re measuring competencies. You’re able to say, “Hey, here are the levels of competency at the beginning, your benchmark, here’s the training and here’s the competencies at the end.” So that people can see the actual improvement in people and those competencies can’t be attributable to marketing or product or anybody else in the organization. So, you know, this is something…to me is kind of a new way to look at things and there’s clear evidence that when people possess sort of competencies, their results are different. And so, in fact, you can probably…when you’re developing the key competency issues, you can look at performance and say, “Here are the attributes of the competency of the high performers,” so that people can make the intellectual leap, “Hey, if I improve competency, I’m improving business,” and I think that’s a great way to look at things. I’ve got one more important question to ask. I’m gonna get to the tip but I wanna move you right into this. I know you guys have proprietary software, the kind that shows and demonstrates what we’ve just been talking about. And I know that you’re gonna make a little offer here to show and tell. So, maybe if you could take a second and explain what your software is and such for everybody, that would be terrific.

Tom: Sure. You know, it’s very much tied to our leadership and catalyst. We call it our catalyst program and it’s…and it is technology, right Evan? I think that’s really important is that you have to invest in the process for the technology to work. It really makes us more efficient and effective to show the needle moving this proprietary software. So, it really helps to track and drive the competencies across the organization. It is not complex. I know, you know, in my past, I can remember back in my APC days and getting into, you know, competency assessments and, you know, there’s books and volumes, you can get yourself paralyzed, you know, with it.

Evan: You can walk around the ATD show floor and it’s 50 companies that do this.

Tom: Yeah. And we really love to simplify it and we have tremendous success in doing so. And we can really tie that your return on investment, you know, particularly in sitting down with that, you know, that highly entrenched attitude, that highly entrenched model where we’re really understanding the business objectives and why they’re…why they wanna accomplish what they want to accomplish. So, you know, I’d love to, you know, be able to give a demonstration for…to anybody that is interested in seeing the software. I mean, obviously, there’s a lot that goes behind it but the simplicity of it is really cool. It’s very easy to use. I mean, if I can use it, anybody can.

Evan: Well, we’re gonna put your contact information and if for some reason you’re listening to this in a vehicle that doesn’t show the description, you can always go to and see Tom’s contact information if you’d like to see a demonstration of the software. Tom, I’m gonna bring this to an end with the question we’re asking everybody which is if you had one tip for people in the world of training, what would that one tip be?

Tom: Well, you know, I can still speak to your audience Evan and certainly it’s in my past which is, you know, again, meeting many teams, building teams, building process. I’d say that, you know, is look at the Gallup 12 questionnaire. There’s 12, you can Google it. It’s very…you can just Google Gallup 12 and it’s about employee engagement. They spell it with an E Evan, they should spell it with an I but, you know fine, that’s up to Gallup poll. You know, they’ve been around for a while but look at those questions and think about your organization, your training organization. Google through those questions and how is your organization impacting? How is your training team? How is your training organization impacting the employee engagement? Because, you know, engagement is, you know, it’s proven, right? It’s proven today. Companies that have highly engaged employees are more productive, they’re more profitable and they may keep people around longer, look at those questions and test yourself. Do an internal audit of yourselves to say, “How is the work that we’re doing impacting the engagement of your company and your customer?” And I’ll go one step further and say, “I promise you if you have an other-centered attitude entrenched in your organization, you will have a highly engaged company.”

Evan: That’s very cool, very cool, very good advice. Tom, thank you so very much for being on the show. We really appreciate it. I learned something which leads me to believe that our listeners learned something because it’s the whole play. So, thank you very much.

Tom: It’s a great pleasure Evan. I really appreciate you having me, thank you.

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